Because I’ve been single for so long, my married friends often like to give me unsolicited advice. “I know what your problem is!” Elinor had a sudden revelation as her newborn baby suckled at her breast. Now that she is a wife to a man and a mother to a boy, her new favorite thing is to live vicariously through my love life. But what seems titillating to her is just plain old depressing to me.
“What is it?” I replied.
“You need to start dating men.” “Who have I been dating?”
“Guys,” she replied, rolling her eyes.
“How can I tell the difference?”
“Men take out the garbage.” Of course this didn’t help me at all. I always take out my own garbage. Does that make me a man?
Later that evening I went to a party. There were many males — I’ll call them “males” since apparently there are categories. I scanned the room looking for “men” or at least someone I was wildly attracted to. Then I spotted Tommy. Tall, nice body, messy hair, nerdy glasses, old T-shirt, jeans, and red, Nike, high-top sneakers. Adorable. And after we started talking I discovered he was smart and funny as well — kind of a computer nerd meets jock meets hipster. Could I ask for anything more?
As we exchanged numbers at the end of the night and kissed goodbye, I pulled away starry-eyed and asked, “Do you take out the garbage?” He looked at me, cocking his head to the right. “Only when I have to … probably not as often as I should,” he said, and then went back to kissing me passionately. All right, he was definitely a guy, but I was having so much fun I forgot to care. And besides, I was already looking forward to the plans we’d made to go drinking and do karaoke.
It seemed like no coincidence that soon thereafter I stumbled upon Cathleen Calbert’s Modern Love column “Forget the Men. Pick A Guy.” Calbert clearly understands the charm of a guy as she distinguishes the essences and actions that separate them from the men.
“Guys are often in between things like jobs and houses, which means they’re more likely to stay up with you all night, drinking wine and playing gin rummy. They’ll rub your belly. They’ll lick chocolate off it. Guys don’t tell you what to do. Yes, they’ll walk past whole bags of garbage without seeing them … guys are boys who didn’t grow up to be men … they’re nothing to me but possibility.”
On the other hand, Calbert says that men take out the trash (I guess Elinor was right about that at least), have keys and alarm codes, wear innocuous dress shirts, take revenge when necessary, and remain — for the most part — stoic and uncommunicative. According to her description, I am hard-pressed to see why anyone would want a man around, except possibly to perform life-threatening surgery, fix your car, or be your bodyguard.
After finally beginning to understand the difference between guys and men, I can see that Elinor is right. I do only date guys. But should I start dating men? No thanks. Dating a man is the equivalent of giving up to me. Maybe because I insist on living a life full of possibility. Or maybe I’m just a girl who never grew up to be a woman. I’d like to believe that even though I’m 30, the best of life and love are yet to come for me. If that’s possible, then I don’t think I would mind taking out the trash for the rest of my life.